Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Citizen Board Ruling Reversed
By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
The first-ever decision by Albuquerque's citizen oversight commission to rule a police shooting unjustified has been overturned by the city's chief administrative officer.
CAO James Lewis' decision exonerates Albuquerque police officer Chris Compton in firing at 45-year-old Michael Davey on May 21, 2002.
Compton's shot missed Davey.
Lewis also reversed the Police Oversight Commission's ruling that Compton and other officers violated APD's policy when they pursued Davey in a vehicle chase.
The commission in February voted 4-3 that the shooting violated the department's use-of-force policy. It voted 5-2 that the officers did not follow APD's pursuit protocol.
Both rulings upheld the findings of Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland and went against those of former Police Chief Gilbert Gallegos.
The CAO acts as an appellate judge for police shooting cases that the chief and POC disagree on.
In a letter to the commission, Lewis wrote that "officers are allowed to use reasonable force to protect themselves and others. In quickly evolving circumstances, such as the one here, the standard use of force highly favors the officer."
Rowland saw the case differently.
"The officer should not have fired. I don't think there was authorization to use deadly force under those circumstances," he told the commission during its February meeting.
Authorities say officers saw Davey driving a stolen pickup early in the morning and followed him to an apartment complex.
Davey stepped momentarily from the truck, but sped off when police approached. Officers chased him until he ran into the back of a semi-truck.
Police then surrounded the truck. Compton fired a shot at Davey as he was trying to get out of the vehicle.
Though he was not armed, investigators said Compton feared Davey had a gun.
But Davey was only leaning on an arm rest and trying to climb out of the truck, according to Rowland.
Davey was convicted on four charges in connection with the incident, including fraudulent refusal to return a leased vehicle and credit card theft, court records show. He was sentenced to four years in prison in November 2002.
Davey's case is the first police shooting to be ruled unjustified by both Rowland and the POC.